I was watching a re-run of Project Runway the other night, as a mode of relaxation (I find some comfort in watching re-runs of my favorite shows – haha) and something struck me as what I’ll term as an characteristic of refinement. It is somewhat a sign of classy behavior.
It is about being non-defensive and being able to accept criticism with a cool head.
There was this designer who was criticized for his work and his work ethic. I was rather impressed at how he just stood calm and confident, yet humble to admit to some of things he was criticized for, and yet not throwing anyone else (the other contestants) under the bus. From the way he responded, you get the feeling that he was truly listening, and reflecting about the comments, before giving a thoughtful answer. He didn’t respond with a wishy-washy way, over-doing the ‘humility’ and swallowing every criticism he got. He also didn’t do any finger pointing or blaming, or give excuses or respond with, “I know. I know.”
Now, you would think that all contestants would be grateful to receive feedback from these powerful people in fashion, because of the lack of experience etc. If you watched the show, you know that it is not really the case. However, on top of this, this guy was already famous. He had his own line and have been showcasing in top runway shows already. He was experienced and had many clients back in his home country. You would think he would be more arrogant because he DID know what he was doing. Art & fashion is subjective isn’t it? Despite his success, he had a humble but confident attitude.
I was thinking to myself, that is a man with refined dignity.
Now, he wasn’t all that gentlemanly looking, or particularly well-dressed and he even uses swear words on occasion, but this just emphasizes the fact that looks do play a part in commanding respect but it is more about the character that shows through behavior and how one treats others. These are the factors that make a person command respect and makes one look poised with grace.
On Being Non Defensive
I’ll be first to admit that I am not, by nature, one of these people. I can get defensive.
I’m a passionate person, who dives into things and do them with energy and excitement. I’m also an ideas person and I have many opinion on things (though I don’t usually share them unless on request). I tend to be unconventional so I guess I don’t do things the regular way sometimes and that……brings in lots of criticism. PLUS, I have a voice online (writing here on elegantwoman.org and on another ballet site), and also in my line of work, which does bring in my fair share of “criticisms”.
Thus, many times my first reaction is passion – which also translates into being emotional and stubbornness or even anger. I may make excuses or present arguments and on rare occasions – maybe once in 5 years, it even results in slamming stuff around the house. (Yikes! Sorry for bursting the bubble of what I’m like).
Almost like a contradiction to my passionate nature, I’m also non-confrontational, so when I get criticized, I tone down my reaction but inside of me – I’m struggling and being all defensive.
Over the years, I had to learn to toughen up. To use these criticisms to my advantage and reflect and improve. And grow. And improve. And become the woman I want to be. So I’ll like to share some of my own thoughts on why we should lose this less-than-pleasant behavior.
What happens when you are defensive?
1. You’re not listening
Sometimes, listening is more important than being defensive. We are being defensive because we are responding to the hurt we feel internally. Sometimes, the ego is hurt. Listening is key because, like that extremely talented designer on Project Runway, you can then take what is being said, do something about it and emerge so much better, and more powerful.
2. You’re creating frustration & hindering communication
Most people who are your friends and family love you and love being around you, otherwise they won’t be hanging out with you! They are generally not there to make you feel bad, or criticize you for the fun of it or to make themselves feel good (if the latter, please lose these toxic people quick.)
As hard as it is to believe, they are actually helping you. They want you to be better. Maybe it is true that they could have packaged what they are saying better, so that it won’t hurt so much. But once you understand the motives, try to look beyond your hurt feelings and self-reflect if you could use any of their criticisms to be a better person and be true to yourself.
Instead of being defensive, which just results in escalating arguments, just pause and say, “Thank you, I will think about what you say (if you aren’t ready to respond well yet).”
“You can’t see clearly through defensiveness.”
― Bryant McGill, Simple Reminders: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life
“Any defensiveness is a sign of failure. You can’t move forward if you are defensive.”
― Bryant McGill, Simple Reminders: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life
Simple Reminders: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life
3. It doesn’t reflect well on you
Not only you’ll look bad, you’ll look shabby.
As inspired by the very classy designer, I feel it just makes him look all so good, and my respect for him increases by ten-fold. It makes me want to listen more to what he has to say and makes me want to help him. Suddenly, he looks so much more dignified and admirable.
How Not to be Defensive
Not all criticism are 100 % applicable
Remember that not all criticisms are valid, so you have to keep a clear mind when you self-evaluate yourself against the critics.
Look for the gold.
Big companies all listen to feedback good and bad, and especially the bad because the customers took time to communicate to them the problems of their products and services. They can use them to improve and beat their competitors.
Maintain the peace in your heart.
It is natural to feel hurt and down for a while. But these things are good for you (I’m reminding myself too).
In life, especially if you want to live life large (i.e. be in a position with influence), you will get more criticism and you have to be able to deal with it (or get used to it or get used to ignoring it). For instance, more people will criticize Barack Obama or Donald Trump than any high school teacher. The high school teacher will probably get criticized more than the guy working in the Deli down the road. I’m not trying to compare the jobs and all of them are important, but what I’m saying is the larger your reach or sphere of influence, the more used you have to get to criticism and not be defensive about it.
Try to get over your “down” feeling quickly, keep your head up, and just be peaceful about it. I use my faith to rest in the Lord and say quick prayers to help me feel better.
Remember why you made that decision and reinforce those reasons in your heart.
Not many people will understand why you make certain decisions. You certainly do not owe them an explanation but you have to stand by yourself, even if that makes you all alone in this. You can’t please every one. At the end of the day, everyone will mind their own business.
Have a classy response, especially when being non defensive is not yet a habit.
Smile, say thank you. Explain briefly or don’t explain at all. Just remember there will always be nay-sayers and unbelievers. Evaluate what they say and take the gold, then throw it away. It takes a while to develop a tough mindset. It takes toughness to do what you believe in. Take all these criticisms as practice, and then you will emerge like gold, after being refined in the fire through hardships and criticisms.
Thanks for reading! Go for gold! Rooting for all of you. 🙂